Can a Realist Believe in God?
ARE you a realist? Most of us would like to think we are. A realist tries to be guided by provable facts. He wishes to avoid being deluded by unrealistic dreams or impractical ideas. In the rational, scientific climate of today’s world, such an approach to problems is very attractive.
However, this attitude has led many to stop believing in God. They feel that it is impossible in this scientific twentieth century to believe in an invisible, superhuman Person who created everything. They prefer to look to science for answers to questions such as “How did we get here?” and “Where are we going?” So, are those who do believe in God unrealistic?
Limits of Realism
Before answering that, we should remind ourselves that realism has limits. A realist can only form conclusions based on facts he possesses. But what if he does not possess all the facts? Or suppose he believes something that is inaccurate? Or perhaps the facts he has are accurate, but his reasoning is faulty? Then, obviously, his “realistic” conclusions would be wrong.
Winston Churchill was doubtless being realistic, according to his own lights, when he said in 1939: “Atomic energy might be as good as our present day explosives, but it is unlikely to produce anything very much more dangerous.” Unfortunately, his conclusion was a long way from the truth. Similarly, in 1959 the managing director of the International Monetary Fund said: “In all likelihood, world inflation is over.” But, oh, how wrong he was! Hence, even when highly qualified men “realistically” assess a situation, their conclusions are not always correct.
Why is it, though, that some who want to be realistic deny the existence of God?
Scientists and Belief in God
One reason some deny the existence of God is that they feel that science has made such belief out-of-date. Is this true? Well, few of us are scientists, but surely it would be realistic to consider what scientists themselves have to say on the matter. An article in the magazine New Scientist states: “The lay view persists—of scientists having ‘disproved’ religion. It is a view that commonly expects scientists to be nonbelievers; that Darwin put the last nails in God’s coffin; and that a succession of scientific and technological innovations since have ruled out the possibility of any resurrection. It is a view that is wildly wrong.” (Italics ours)
The article added: “Scientists are not notably irreligious. There are no reliable surveys on which to draw, but a straw poll among universities, research establishments, and industrial laboratories indicates that as many as eight of every 10 scientists follow a religious faith or countenance principles that are ‘non-scientific.’” Speaking realistically, surely the fact that many scientists have some faith in God is evidence that modern science does not make it impossible to believe in his existence.
But, you may feel, scientific theories—especially the evolution theory—make the existence of God unnecessary. The fact is, many who realistically examine the evidence for evolution find it sadly lacking. And even some of those who accept it find it insufficient to explain the beauty and grandeur of life on our planet Earth.
Professor Robert Jastrow, an eminent geologist, astronomer and physicist, accepts the evolution theory. But in an article in the magazine Science Digest he wrote: “When you study the history of life, and step back to look at this long history with the perspective of several hundred million years, you see a flow and direction in it. . . . Can this history of events leading to man, with its clear direction, yet be undirected?” His own conclusion is that that question is “beyond the reach of science.”
Many will agree that the “history of events leading to man” gives evidence of direction. But is it reasonable not to supply the next logical link in the chain of reasoning? Clear evidence of direction is surely evidence that there is a director. And that director can only be God. A realistic conclusion to draw from this is that, far from evolution making it impossible to believe in God, the existence of God makes the theory of evolution unnecessary.
There is another reason why some claim not to believe in God. Sometimes they use science as a cover for deeper motives. Consider what atheist Aldous Huxley wrote: “I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently assumed that it had none.” What were his motives? “For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality.”
However, if we deny the existence of God and say the world has no meaning merely because we want it that way, does this change the facts? Any who think so are rather like a little boy who wants to hide, so he covers his eyes with his hands. He thinks that because he cannot see anyone, no one can see him! But is it realistic to say that God does not exist merely because we refuse to acknowledge his existence?
Realism and Belief in God
The apostle Paul developed a powerful argument that has led many realists to believe in God. He said: “[God’s] invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” (Romans 1:20) Paul could see the beauties of creation, the wondrous variety of life and the awesome starry heavens, and in them discern some of the qualities of the one who created them. Modern science helps us to see how intricately designed natural things are, what power and wisdom were necessary to bring them into existence. Hence, in some ways the natural world today gives an even more powerful witness to the existence of God.
True, there are some who reject this reasoning. But what alternative explanation do they have for the order that exists in the natural world? Regarding just one small aspect of that order, the protein molecules, science author Rutherford Platt wrote: “The chance of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen atoms, as well as phosphorus and a constellation of metallic elements, coming together in the right proportions, under the right conditions, can be likened to the chance that a pack of cards, flung in the air, will fall to the table with all the suits in sequence—virtually impossible, even though the cards were tossed in the air every second without pause through history.”
The author goes on to say that he, nevertheless, believes that proteins came about like that—by chance. But, surely, a realistic person, on finding a deck of cards all harmoniously laid out on a table in their proper suits, would realize that someone had carefully put them there. Is it unrealistic to come to the same conclusion when observing the beautiful harmony in nature?
Intellectuals, such as Rutherford Platt, doubtless feel compelled to accept a naturalistic, or non-divine, explanation for things—in spite of the evidence—because that is the kind of reasoning that is acceptable today. Even scientists who believe in God would find it difficult to credit him as the direct cause of things in their scientific writings. This is the intellectual fashion. But is it realistic to allow our view of matters to be dictated by the intellectual fashion? Fashions change. The existence of God is too serious a matter to be dependent on things like fashions!
The Urgent Need to Accept God’s Existence
While science has increased our knowledge of the natural world, it has not solved the problem of creating a workable human society; nor has any other branch of human learning. This has now become a serious problem.
The truth is, the world situation today is out of human control. Politicians cannot control the nuclear arms race or the spreading pollution threat. Civic leaders cannot control the crime explosion. Economists cannot solve the problems of inflation or declining production, and life for hundreds of millions of people is degraded and hopeless. The shocking truth is, there is a well-founded doubt as to whether the human race will survive much longer.
The Bible foretold this situation, and showed the main reason for it. It says that men would be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4) Is it any wonder the world is in such a bad situation when it is filled with people like that? Surely, things will never improve until people improve. Now, science cannot improve people’s nature. Can anyone? Yes, God can.
Man’s nature is degenerate because he is alienated from God. However, the Bible tells us that God is “reconciling a world to himself.” (2 Corinthians 5:19) Those who respond to this reconciliation really do change. They “quit being fashioned after this system of things.” Rather, they are “transformed.” (Romans 12:2) They develop qualities such as love, consideration, honesty, reliability and concern for others. Such people have the most realistic reason of all for believing in God. They have experienced his power in their lives.
If the world were full of people following godly principles (not people who merely claim to be Christians), then most of today’s problems would be solved. And that is exactly what is going to happen. “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more . . . But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” (Psalm 37:10, 11) Man’s best hope for the future lies in the fulfillment of that promise.
Is it an unrealistic hope? Well, we know that men are ruining the environment of the earth and are close to destroying the human race. Hence, relying on men is unrealistic. If we do not believe in God, our only hope for the future lies in wishful thinking. Is it, then, realistic to turn your back on God? Is it not, rather, the height of realism to turn to the only One who has the power, the wisdom and the desire to rescue us from the results of our mistakes? Yes, a realist not only can but must believe in God.
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It is not true that scientists have “disproved” religion
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Scientists are not notably irreligious
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Rather than evolution making it impossible to believe in God, the existence of God makes the theory of evolution unnecessary
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Is it realistic to say that God does not exist merely because we refuse to acknowledge his existence?
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The existence of God is too serious a matter to be left to intellectual fashions